The Pittsburgh Penguins have been known for their speedy skaters and sharpshooters. It takes more than that to win a Stanley Cup.
And the Penguins have it - with their stingy defense.They crushed Boston 7-2 Thursday night for their third consecutive victory after two straight losses and can reach the championship round for the first time in their 24-year history by beating the Bruins in Saturday night's sixth game in Pittsburgh.
In the Campbell Conference final, surprising Minnesota, leading three games to one, plays at Edmonton, 7:35 p.m. Friday.
"When we get ahead, it's tough to come back," Pittsburgh forward Kevin Stevens said. "We played hard, and our defense is playing great."
"They are as talented a team offensively as there is in this league," Boston coach Mike Milbury said. "Maybe we didn't give their defense enough credit, because they're very solid."
With two goals and three assists Thursday night, Stevens was involved in more goals than goalie Tom Barrasso and his teammates allowed the Bruins in the last three games. After winning 6-3 and 5-4 at home, Boston lost two 4-1 games in Pittsburgh before the third straight blowout.
It was only the seventh time in history (7-38-6) the Penguins had won in Boston Garden.
"This was probably our worst game of the year," said Boston's Cam Neely, who has 15 playoff goals but has been held to no goals and one assist in the last three games.
If the Penguins win the best-of-7 Wales Conference finals, they will gain the first finals berth in their 24-year history. Boston has made it two of the last three years, losing both times to Edmonton.
Mario Lemieux, the Penguins' best offensive player, had great individual success the past six years, but his team is in the third round for the first time in its history.
"It's great," Lemieux said. "Every time you're on a winning team, it's always a great thing."
The Penguins were second in the NHL with 342 regular-season goals. But only three teams gave up more goals than the 305 they allowed. It's been a different story in the playoffs.
In the seventh game of the opening round, Pittsburgh blanked New Jersey 4-0. In the second round, Washington managed just one goal in each of the last three games as the Penguins won the series four games to one after losing the opener.
Now they are poised for another four-game winning streak.
"We have to continue to do the same things we've been doing," Pittsburgh's Ron Francis said. "Coach (Bob) Johnson said from the beginning it's a 20-man effort. You can't rely on one guy."
"They're playing very good hockey," Boston defenseman Ray Bourque said. "They've got a lot of guys they throw at you and a lot of skilled players and a lot of speed."
That was apparent Thursday night as the Penguins barely flinched when Don Sweeney scored for Boston just 40 seconds into the game. Pittsburgh got seven of the next eight goals.
"Every time we get the lead it's tough for them to put the checking line on against us" because Boston needs to score, Lemieux said. And that strategy could lead to more Pittsburgh goals.
Boston's Nevin Markwart was carried off on a stretcher after crashing backward into the boards behind Pittsburgh's net with 7:22 left. He briefly lost consciousness and suffered a concussion.